Thursday, July 31, 2008

Junk Treasures

"One man's junk is another man's treasure". Oh, how true this is. Within our own neighborhood, we have been fortunate to find many treasures for our home that others considered junk and threw in the garbage.

This table was just in need of a little paint. The chairs were left here by the previous owners.

We use this old sewing table as a desk. I used it for several years and now Sophia is using it.

This side table had a broken leg when we found it. Alexander fixed the leg and then we sanded and painted it to match Sophia's bedroom.

The firepit is a recent find this summer. A neighbor received it for Christmas and never really used it. Lucky us. We have had several smores parties (gf cookies, marshmellows and chocolate) in our back yard this summer.

This is my favorite piece. A family moved out of their house and put a "FREE" sign on this piece. It sat there for several days before we took it. We couldn't fit the top piece in our car so my husband had this brillant idea to wheel it home on Alexander's skateboard. It worked perfectly!

While my sister was visiting in June, we were taking a walk with Sophia when we spotted a three piece couch set (couch, loveseat and chair)in a neighbor's trash. Sophia was disgusted that they didn't even try to freecycle it. She came home and talked Steve into bringing it home. He and Alexander cleaned everything up and sold the set for about $100 on EBay.

We have found other things like a rocking chair that Alexander fixed up and gave as a gift to his cousin Hannah, a coffee table for a friend that just moved into her own apartment, and more. For some odd reason we get great satisfaction out of finding free treasures that we would have spent tons of money on. What kind of great finds have you found?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Guess Who Has A New Hair Cut?

That's right, it's me! And Zandy! And Sophia! On Friday we all decided to do something a little different with our hair. It was fun for all three of us to walk out with a new look. Oh, and the funny thing was when my hairdresser Jeannie asked if I was doing a coloring also. I told her "No, I am going natural again." Here is why I love Jeannie and have gone to her since we moved here nine years ago. She said, "Oh that is good. YOU are going to be so much more comfortable about that." I love that she respects who I am.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Can't I Look Cute On My Own?

Today while at Trader Joe's, one of the gals that has worked there as long as we have shopped there said to me, "You look cute today. Did your daughter dress you?" Gosh, can't I look cute on my own? I looked down to remind myself what I was even wearing today and although Sophia didn't dress me, I did consult her before buying the sandals, capris and shirt I was wearing, so maybe that is why I looked so cute.


This morning Alexander was mowing the back yard while Sophia and I did some work in the front. Sophia is always fascinated by weeds. As with all things in nature, she sees the beauty in them and has a hard time pulling them and ending their lives. Today she saw an interesting one that reminded her of a pumpkin plant. I reminded her of how overgrown our yard is right now and to "please just pull it." She said, "This is probably the cure for arthritis."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy Faces are Catching Up!

On July 11th, Sophia started keeping a daily log of how I feel. Before she eats breakfast in the morning, she sits down at the calendar on the refrigerator and asks how I would rate the day. Here is the system she is using:

Sad Face: I am extremely stiff and not able to do much of anything that day.
Straight Face: I am feeling okay and can do limited activity.
Happy Face: I still have some stiffness but can do almost all activities.

According to Sophia, since July 11th, I have had almost as many happy face days as I have had sad (2) and okay (4) days combined. We are treating this as a success!

*Note: I have spent the last hour trying to figure out how to download smiley faces. I am now asking myself, "Is this blog really that important?" I have spent an hour of my time, I have no smiley faces, and I now have junk that keeps popping up on my screen telling me that the default search change attempt was blocked. It is driving me insane!!!!! You would not like to see the face I have now. Luckily, Sophia is still asleep and doesn't have to see it either.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Bread

3 eggs plus 1 egg white
1 cup vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 cups grated zucchini
2-1/3 cups Gluten Free Flour Mix -
(I used 1 cup quinoa flour, 1 cup brown rice flour and 1/3 cup tapioca)
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Makes 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter two 5x9 inch loaf pans.

Combine eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl. Add zucchini, mixing well. In a medium bowl, sift flour, xanthum gum, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add sifted mix to the zucchini mixture. Blend well and stir in chocolate chips.

Divide mixture between the two prepared loaf pans and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove bread from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mmmmm......Fresh Veggies and Cookin' In the Kitchen with Zandy

Friday afternoon Alexander (Zandy) and I drove to the Green Earth Institute to pick up our bi-weekly share of organically grown veggies. This is our fourth year of participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and every year I love it more. I love pulling up at the farm and seeing a line of folks ready to fill their canvas bags with all kinds of veggie suprises. There is just something special about seeing others excited about good healthy food and being greeted by name each time by Farmer Steve, the head farmer. This week Alexander and I completely filled two bags with garlic scapes, scallions, brocolli, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi (Sophia's favorite), radicchio, new potatoes, five cucumbers, two huge yellow squash, five huge zucchini and basil. When you get all of these fresh veggies to a warm car, the smells just jump out to you. You can hardly wait to get home and start eating! At every stop light I read through the weekly newsletter figuring out if there are any new recipes I want to try - there is! There is a delicious pesto dip that doesn't require any dairy. I am definitely making that this weekend.

We came home and immediately started preparing dinner. Alexander peeled potatoes while I browned the ground beef and made the gluten/dairy free sauce for our potato casserole all the while hearing stories of video games and a new idea Zandy has to make a metal sword. We put the casserole in the oven and washed the broccoli from CSA so we could put it in the casserole the last 20 minutes. It was delicious!

On Saturday, I made an egg wrap by scrambling three free range eggs and then wrapping it in the Chinese cabbage. For dinner we made quinoa, gluten free fried chicken, and steamed zucchini and yellow squash with the the garlic scapes and onion. Yummy! Then for dessert, Alexander shredded enough zucchini that I could make two loaves of gluten free/dairy free chocolate zucchini bread. This bread is to die for! We are definitely shredding more zucchini this week for more bread and to freeze for later.

To be a part of a CSA is very motivating. I have not come to the point in my life that I am ready to take on a garden, but I love having fresh veggies to feed my family. I feel motivated to try vegetables that I would otherwise not buy at the grocery store and I am surprised at how much we like new things. Who knew that Alexander and I would love chopping up beets and eating them raw? Who knew that Sophia would eat a whole big kohlrabi herself? Who knew that if I stuck with kale I would finally like the taste? What it comes down to, is that when I know the crew of farmers and interns that are working at the Green Earth Institute, I feel a connection to the food that I am eating and I have a hard time wasting it. Not only do I feel like my money is wasted, but I have a harder time knowing their time was wasted for something that is such an awesome gift to us.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Spoiled Border Collie on the Premises!

Izzy, our 19 month old Border Collie, has become quite spoiled. Besides finding a comfortable spot in the house and then barking for us to come pet her,she is now waking me up at three or four in the morning for the sole purpose of petting her. For several nights I thought she needed to go outside, but slowly (it's 3am!) realized what she was up to. One early morning I stood with the door open to go outside and she looked at me like, "What are you thinking Momma? Get over here and pet me." The other morning after making sure she didn't need to go out and being careful NOT to pet her, I said, "Izzy, go to sleep." She barked her quiet - everyone is sleeping bark - and I told her again,"GO TO SLEEP." She laid down in the hallway and exhaled loudly . She got up a few times and slammed her body down on the floor and whimpered like she was the most abused dog in the world. Finally, she fell asleep. Poor Izzy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Life Learning with the Warriors Series

My family has adopted the homeschooling philosophy known as "unschooling". Rather than do "school at home" with a purchased curriculum and a daily schedule, we follow a path that leads us to things in life that we truly enjoy learning about. Actually, we don't really even consider it learning, we are just enjoying the stimulating things that life has miraculously provided for us. With a child led way of living, we trust that our children are naturally curious beings and like a scientist, they will learn everything they need to know. I have many success stories to share about my children, but today I have been reflecting on what has been going on with Sophia lately.

When she was seven, she taught herself to read with a McGruffy reader because she wanted to learn to read the same way Laura Ingalls read. She wanted homework and time to read aloud to me. Then, oneday, she stopped. She seemed to have accomplished what she wanted from reading and took a break, although she still loved for me to read to her. When she was nine, she had the goal of reading a chapter book. She started reading OTHERWISE KNOWN AS SHEILA THE GREAT and understood everything she was reading. (I know because she would enthusiatically summarize each chapter to me the following morning). She felt so sad when it was over because she loved reading about Sheila. She went on to read other Judy Blume books. Then her unschooling friends introduced her to the the WARRIORS series by Erin Hunter. The Warriors series has really struck a cord with Sophia. She has integrated the book into all parts of her life. Here are some of the cool things she is doing.

1. She has read almost five of the Warriors books which consists of about 30 chapters each.

2. She meets weekly with her friends who play "Warriors". They chose a leader who had read the most books and they felt was "wise". As in the book, they have apprentices, warriors, and medicine cats. They all have their own warrior name and they must follow the Warrior Code.

3. Sophia is the "medicine cat" for Windclan (the clan her unschooling group adopted). She has set up a schedule for herself to learn all the different herbs and how they cure the cats. She wants to be a good, dependable medicine cat for her clan.

4. She is learning the time of day based on the position of the sun and moon.

5. She has created her first Yahoo group for her friends to share information about the book.

6. She met the author Erin Hunter at our local bookstore. She has a wonderful personality and even my husband was impressed by her sense of humor and ability to relate to the kids.

7. Sophia meets friends when playing online games and has shared her love for the Warriors books and encouraged them to read the series also, which they have done. One online game gives them the capabilities to create their own Warriors world.

8. Yesterday one of her good friends and deputy of the clan, shared a new website with her. She had to create a history and biography of herself as Spotted Heart, her cat name. She created this wonderful story of how she was left by her mother at two moons old and later realized her mother was evil.

9. Sophia has encouraged me to read the Warriors series also. The funny thing is that she remembers more of the details than I do!

There is much more that is happening, but the key is that all of this "learning" comes from her pursuing her own interests, having the time to let the information absorb in her brain so she can decide what SHE wants to do with it, and trusting herself that she can make choices about what path her education will take. When you trust that your kids are naturally curious beings, there is no stopping what they can do!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Gift of Homemade and Etsy

I am fortunate to come from a family that appreciates and often prefers homemade. For my family and me, homemade means sharing a piece of yourself with someone you love. By sharing your special gifts with someone, you are putting good energy into the world.

I am not sure if the appreciation for homemade is what has created a family with mulitple talents or I just come from an amazing family, but each person in my family has their own unique specialities.

My first experiences with homemade were from my mom who stayed up late at night to finish sewing Easter dresses for my three sisters and me. I also remember my mom making tons of mini bread loaves (she reused cleaned out canned goods for the baking pans) as gifts for friends at Christmas. As little girls, we had the job of making the hot chocolate recipe which my mom would bottle up and give with the bread. My grandma had a special tradition of crocketing a gift for each of us six kids every year. It was always fun to see the first girl open her gift because you knew you had the same gift, just in a different color. My dad and brother Danny are woodworkers and one year my dad made me a side table for my bedroom. They have both made cabinets and other beautiful pieces. My son Alexander is now following in their footsteps with woodworking. My other brother Mike refinished old furniture for a while and redid an old desk of my godmothers that my son still uses today. His wife creates the coolest birthday gifts for the kids and one year made a quilt for me! My grandpa was a gardener and he provided our summer vegetables until his death. He had the unique gift of making each of us feel like we were his apprentices in the garden. My older sister Sherry sews, crochets, scrapbooks and much more. Robyn is amazing at counted cross stitch which she does on Christmas stockings and frames her other masterpieces as wedding, Christmas and birthday presents. Stacey is the queen of scrapbooking and finds the most creative ways of putting photos together. One of my favorites is on a flower pot.

One year when Steve and I were first married, we decided to make our Christmas gifts for each other. I cross stitched a musical page of the song These are a Few of My Favorite Things and he wrapped a little tiny box and put a bow on it with a note that says something like "Never open this box, but just know that whenever you hold it, you will feel my love." It is still one of my favorite gifts from him.

When my children were younger, it was difficult to have a strong connection to my family in Wichita because of the distance and lack of time together. However, every year we made Christmas gifts for them. It was my way of letting my kids connect to our extended family and it worked. As we made a project for someone, they would ask questions about that person so they knew exactly how to decorate it. My kids have always made gifts for my husband and me. In fact, one year my daughter was terribly insulted when her Brownie troop had her make Mother's Day gifts. For her, this has always been such a personal thing and she couldn't believe they were telling her what to make for me. She gave it to me and said, "This is from them." Then she handed me another gift and said, "This is from me!"

I think the stronger your ties to homemade, the more difficult it is to buy commerical items as gifts. When you bake a birthday cake for your child, you are not only providing the food for a party, but you are geniunely connecting yourself to the person you are giving to. When you crotchet a dishtowel for yourself or someone else, that connection is there each and every time it is used. When you wear a dress made by your mother, you know her love is with you everywhere you go. When you look at the collection of gifts your children have made for you through the years, you see the love they had for you at each stage in their life. I feel very fortunate to look around my house and see all the wonderful things that the special people in my life have created for me.

In the spirit of sharing our gifts with others, my older sister Sherry has taken the homemade pledge and also has two shops on Etsy. What I like about her shop is there is always something new. So, check her site often for new and exciting things. If you can't make homemade yourself, her site gives you the option of still giving homemade to those special people in your life. She does outstanding work and when possible, tries to reuse fabric and other materials from anyplace she can. A few months ago we needed a purse for a little girls birthday party. We shared what we were looking for and she found the perfect fabric. It was in a shirt her daughter had outgrown! Please check out her blog where she explains her new Etsy shop where she will be making shopping totes. I bought the first one! Don't worry, there will be more soon. On her other Etsy shop, she makes baby toys, blankets, pillows, hats, scrapbooking materials, and much more.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Acceptance = Happiness???

When I was keeping up with my hair coloring, the new hairs peeping through my scalp were not welcomed. They signified another $50 and one hour of my time that I would need to spend to cover my scalp in more chemicals. However, now that I have joyfully made the decision to let my hair return to its natural state, I find the new growth beautiful. I like the mixture of grays and blacks and browns that are coming in. I wonder how many other things in life I would like better if I only became more accepting of them.